US Church Membership Hits Record Low

Gallup says rate has fallen below 50% for the first time
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2021 12:30 PM CDT
Gallup: Church Membership Is Below 50% for the First Time
The contrast between age groups suggests further decline is inevitable, Gallup says.   (Getty Images/Stephanie Murton)

If you're an American who belongs to a church, synagogue, or mosque, you're now in a minority, according to a new Gallup poll. Gallup says church membership has fallen below 50% to a record low of 47%, largely due to a corresponding increase in the proportion of people who say they have no religious affiliation. The pollsters say that when Gallup first measured church membership in 1937, the rate was 73% and it remained steady at around 70% until it began to drop around the year 2000, hitting 61% in 2010 and 55% in 2015. Even among religious Americans, the percentage who belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque has dropped to 60%, while 4% of those without a religious preference still belong to a church, down from 10% at the turn of the century.

Gallup says that there is a strong correlation between church membership and age with 66% of "traditionalists"—people born before 1946—belonging to a church, compared to 58% of baby boomers, 50% of Gen Xers, and 36% of millennials. The decline was steeper among Catholics than Protestants. Gallup says declines in church membership were also proportionately smaller among Republicans, Southerners, college graduates, and non-Hispanic Black Americans. Forbes notes that despite the decline in church membership, the US remains a religious country, with around 70% identifying with a religion. In other Western countries, including the UK and Canada, the rate is closer to 50%. (Read more religion stories.)

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